Computer assisted bag screening system
A method and apparatus are disclosed for screening articles utilizing a computerized touch sensitive screen or other computerized pointing device for operator identification and electronic marking of objects within the article to be further examined. An operator positioned at a computerized touch sensitive screen views electronic images of the articles to be screened as they are conveyed past a sensor array which transmits sequences of images of the series either directly or through a computer to the touch sensitive display screen. The operator manually “touches” objects within the articles displayed on the screen to be identified on coupled interactive screens thereby registering the objects selected within the computer. The computer then provides sequential information identifying actions to be taken and information and data to be recorded.
This claims priority of Application Ser. No. 60/342,290 filed Dec. 21, 2001, and is a Divisional application to application Ser. No. 10/328,328 filed Dec. 23, 2002, now U.S. Pat. No. 7,012,256, all of which are fully incorporated herein by reference.STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT
The development of this technology is being sponsored by the National Science Foundation SBIR Program under award DMI-023800 and award DMI-0422071.BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
Current bag screening methods at entry points to secure areas in airports and other security sensitive installations are essentially manual systems that take little advantage of today's computerized technologies. Typically, situated at the entry to an airport concourse, for instance, is a security checkpoint station having x-ray machines for inspection of carry-on baggage. An inspector who examines the x-ray images of bags passing through a unit is stationed at each x-ray machine. If an inspector sees a potential threat object he/she typically stops image inspection and verbally alerts search personnel stationed at the end of the x-ray machine conveyor to remove the bag in question to search for the object. Often the search person is called over to the x-ray image monitor to look at the object on the screen to help in the search of the baggage. In the meantime, flow of traffic through the security checkpoint halts while this communication is going on. Lines at these x-ray machines are notoriously long and can be quite slow, especially with today's increased threats of terrorism.
Additionally there are no detailed records kept of people, baggage, and objects passing through security checkpoints in our airports or at other security sensitive installations. With the thousands of people, bags, packages, etc. being screened daily at a checkpoint it is impossible for security personnel to accurately remember and keep track of who or what passed through their checkpoint, even just a few minutes earlier.
The inventors have, in a previous invention, utilized computerized pointer technology, such as a touch screen, to select and define the spatial position of objects selected by an inspector from within a mixture of objects (U.S. Pat. No. 6,124,560). The present invention extends these capabilities to provide not only location of selected objects to a computer but additionally to provide instant electronic communications among security checkpoint personnel of the presence, appearance, and location of selected objects and provides that this information along with the images of the selected objects within their mixture of objects and associated data be electronically stored in a searchable computerized database. The present invention further provides that computerized algorithms can utilize this information to learn the characteristics of selected objects over time so to allow the computer to automatically help in the selection of similar objects.1. Field of the Invention
The inventive computer assisted bag screening system provides means for rapid identification of potentially objectionable inclusions within bags, packages, wrappings, or other containers. The use of this technology can rapidly screen such objects with minimal change to existing facilities. The screening system uses computer technology and a touch screen, or other pointing device, that may enable operators to select several objects per minute without stress. The touch screen or pointing device provides an electronic registration within a computer of objects selected by an operator.
Security personnel have high job turnover rates. Bag screeners are often untrained, poorly paid and highly stressed. These screeners are typically expected to inspect up to 12 bags per minute. The repetitive tasks and lack of experienced scanners have caused lapses of attention. There needs to be systematic checks on performance, better training and reduced stress for the bag screeners before it will be feasible to check all of the checked bag as required in the recent law signed by the President.
The innovative imaging and touch screen security and communications system of the present invention can be applied at locations using x-rays or other imaging technology for inspection and screening of objects and people entering into a secure area. It is believed that the system can significantly improve efficiency and increase traffic flow through a security checkpoint, for instance at an airport or other security sensitive installation (such as a power plant, military base, federal building, etc.) by computerizing and streamlining communications between image inspection personnel, bag search personnel, and supervisory personnel. Furthermore, the system will provide a searchable computerized database of all x-ray images, associated data, search alerts and search results for people and objects passing through the security checkpoint. The information in the database will tag x-ray or other type images containing potential threat objects with the actual identities of the objects allowing computerized image processing correlations to be developed to provide computer aided identification of potential threat objects to assist the image inspector. The database will be usable for investigating security lapses and for analyzing activities at a security checkpoint and throughout a local area network linking security checkpoints.
The use of the new computer assisted screening system permits the separation of the image inspection activity from the dirt, noise and confusion of existing security checkpoints. It makes the work of screening less repetitive and the higher productivity permits the payment of higher wages. There is no requirement that image inspectors be in the same location or even the same area of the country as the bags, packages, people, etc. that are being checked. The image inspectors can be assigned in response to the changing traffic loads at different security checkpoints. The remote inspection also provides a means for supervisors to constantly monitor, train and inspect the performance of the bag screeners.
When the image inspecting operator sees any object illuminated by the inventive screening system that merits further attention, the operator touches the object on the touch screen. The bag can then be sent to an area for further inspection, as by being diverted to an alternative conveyor or search area. The results of the search can be entered into a computerized database through touching appropriate identifications on a menu presented on a touch screen to the searcher or by using another type computerized pointing device such as a mouse or light pen with a computer monitor.
The new screening system at airports, power plants, and other restricted locations enables inspectors doing the detailed investigations to have the benefit of seeing all of the touch screen identified suspicious objects highlighted on their monitor screens. The system provides that all image scans, associated data, and screener touch screen responses are saved to a computerized database thereby providing a searchable computerized record of objects, people, etc. passing through security checkpoints and allowing later analysis of activities at security checkpoints.
The new system further enables objects that are identified by a first bag screener to be automatically referred to a supervisor for a second opinion. The supervisor may either clear the bag for loading or the bag can be diverted to a special area for a detailed inspection.
The present invention can make use of artificial intelligence to highlight objects that are similar to those selected by the human operator. After the screener has selected certain objects several times, the computer is able to recognize certain shapes and to highlight them. It is the aim of the screening system to make the job of screening much more productive and to provide a preliminary scan of the large percentage of the baggage that does not need a more detailed inspection.
While the touch screen or other pointing device interface, computer, and artificial intelligence programs in the present invention make bag screening much faster and less stressful, it does not replace the human operator. Additionally it provides a means to monitor the performance of image inspectors and provides a quick way to get a second opinion if any suspicious object is seen.
Utilizing remote computerized pointing device monitoring, such as with a touch screen, supervisors may run on-line checks to ensure that the screening operators are providing reliable identification of targeted objects. If the supervisor, viewing the same images as a primary image screener, selects 100 objects and 85 are also found by the primary screener then the relative detection efficiency of the primary screener is 85% or 85/100. An important feature is that the computer, having learned to identify threat objects in images through its artificial intelligence program, can similarly perform a check of image inspector efficiency and automatically report its results. It is a significant feature that measurement of such image inspection efficiency, by a supervisor or by the computer, can also be performed off-line using stored images with stored touch screen responses retrieved from the computerized database of checkpoint activities.
Another significant feature of the invention is that it can be used to monitor and record trainee inspector responses to images presented to them during training. As described above, the efficiency of trainees for image inspection can be measured by the instructor or by the computer. Real images from a database of images from a security checkpoint can be used to train the new inspectors. The new inspectors' responses to these images can be compared to the stored responses of the security personnel manning the security checkpoint in addition to the responses of the trainee instructor. Additionally, computerized images of threat objects can be projected into an image, such as is done by the new “Threat Image Projection System” or TIPS system recently introduced by the FAA for x-ray image inspection personnel testing and training. Interfacing with TIPS, the inspectors' touch screen responses can be monitored for efficiency of detection, both in pre-job training and during on-the-job training and monitoring.SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The system provides essentially instantaneous touch screen communications among security personnel with regard to inspection by x-ray or other type imaging generated at security inspection points. Among the advantages offered by the system are:
- Increases throughput at a security inspection station while increasing effectiveness of the inspection process.
- Allows a second coincident real-time visual inspection of images by a supervisor or second inspector.
- Enables rapid automated communications between image touch screen inspectors and object (i.e. bag) search personnel.
- Enables rapid automated communications between supervisory personnel and image touch screen inspectors and object search personnel.
- Provides rapid automated feedback to inspection and supervisory personnel from search personnel as to status of a bag search.
- Provides electronic registration of location and appearance of selected objects allowing storage of images with associated data.
- Provides a searchable computerized record of inspection station activity.
- Provides for a computer to utilize algorithms to learn the characteristics of selected objects over time enabling the computer to automatically help in the selection of similar objects.
- Provides computerized methods to measure the detection efficiency of image inspectors.
- Provides a training tool for security personnel
Referring now to the drawings and
In the present embodiment, sensor array 3s data corresponding to electromagnetic x-ray measurements emanating from the inspection zone 3z and from article 6 within the inspection zone 3z are transmitted from sensor array 3s to computer 7 and/or touch sensitive screen 4 over transmitting cables 8 or by wireless means. Control of sensor array 3s operation may also be provided by computer 7 over transmitting cables 8 or by wireless transmission. Sensor array 3s data received by computer 7 are processed for analog to digital conversion if not already digital by nature of sensor array 3s and micro-computer processed into digitized electronic images which are transmitted over cables 8 to touch sensitive screen 4 which is capable of electronically registering the coordinates on the screen of a manual touch by a human operator. Touch screen 4 displays the digitized images corresponding to the sensor data from sensor array 3s of the inspection zone 3z and the article 6 to be screened within the inspection zone 3z. Alternatively, the sensor array 3s can transmit the images directly to the touch sensitive screen 4.
The human operator (i.e., Inspector, Supervisor, etc.) views the electronic images on touch screen 4 and manually touches the image of any significant material object within an article 6 being inspected, in this case object image I, which the operator wishes to be identified for further action, such as direct visual inspection, which may require the article 6 to be removed from the stream of articles 6 on conveyor 2. Preselected categories of significant information, such as spatial coordinates describing the location, prior identifications of similar articles or a highlight of the object on the touch sensitive screen 4 of the touch by operator may be registered by touch sensitive screen 4 and transmitted over cables 8 to computer 7. Computer 7 associates the touch screen information of the registered touch with corresponding information in the computer 7 and further associates the information on other touch screens 4i or other computer monitors in the system. Computer 7 then electronically tracks the location of selected article 6 as it is further conveyed along conveyor 2 (as to other connected conveyors for further inspection).
Computer 7 may contain a pre-compiled pattern database or identification and pattern recognition algorithms which can perform learning of selections by an operator as the operator makes the selections. Such identification and pattern recognition algorithms may be accomplished by computerized neural networks or other such pattern recognition computer code. Identification by pattern recognition of the objects can be performed by using, for example, the edge enhancement and image contour extraction techniques. Further details of pattern recognition and its interaction with robotic systems is described in the published text titled “Robot Vision,” Berthold Klaus Paul Horn, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. (1991), the disclosure of which is incorporated herein, in its entirety.
Learning the recognized object patterns can be performed using known neural network or other pattern recognition and learning systems. Neural network techniques for identifying and learning patterns are described in, for example, the published text “Neural Networks for Pattern Recognition,” Christopher M. Bishop, Oxford University Press, New York (1995), (hereafter “Bishop”), the disclosure of which is incorporated herein, in its entirety. Bishop chapters 3-6 describe neural network techniques including single and multiple layer perception as well as different error functions that can be used for training neural networks. Bishop, chapters 9 and 10 describe techniques for learning and generalization in a neural network. Such computerized learning systems are sometimes referred to as artificial intelligence systems.
In this case an operator will initially make touch screen selections of suspicious objects within a mixture in a package or bag to be further examined. As the operator makes selections, the associated electronic images will be processed through the computer algorithms with the imaging patterns distinctive to the selected objects noted by the algorithms. As similar objects are repetitively selected by the operator the computer algorithms associate the distinctive properties of the imaging patterns with objects to be selected for extraction and begin to electronically select similar patterns for extraction without input from the human operator. In this way the computerized system learns those objects to be further examined or diverted and after sufficient learning experience may be able to perform certain screening without input from the operator.
The choice of using a touch screen 4 for making the selection of objects I to be further examined or extracted from the mixture is a matter of preference. Similar pointing devices interfaced to a display screen could be used such as a computer mouse, a track ball, a joystick, a touch pad, a light pen, or other such device. The inventors have chosen the touch screen 4 as the preferred pointing device based upon their intensive studies of some of these various types of devices for screening applications.
The screens of
In the meantime while the contaminated baggage article is rerouted for further examination,
With the categorization method included, the present system may incorporate the evaluation or categorization of the noted object I. In the present embodiment, the following evaluations may be made: NO RESTRICTED Object FOUND; FIREARM; KNIFE; SHARP, POINTED Object; SPRAY CAN; BOMB; EXPLOSIVE; AMMUNITION. Other designations may be added or substituted without departing from the scope of the present invention. When the evaluation is made, it may be entered by merely touching the appropriate line (as is well known in the art) and that evaluation may be stored in the computer 7 which provides the overall control of system components and compilation and exercise of data received and output. The intent of the system is to digitize and store in a database all x-ray images and all regions of interest (ROI's) marked via the touch screen including those not selected on a touch screen for search. The images are all date and time stamped and identified as to the individual security station (e.g., on a concourse or in a bag handling area). Additionally, corresponding digitized photographic images of the articles, digitized photographic images of the person who presented the bag or articles for inspection, and other pertinent information may also be stored along with the digitized x-ray images. This procedure provides a searchable history of all articles and people carrying the articles entered into the system, touch screen inspector responses, and search results should review be needed at any time for verification of security.
The database of images and corresponding identification information entered provides a capability for processing the data to compile correlations, associations, and histories of objects and individuals connected thereto, entering a particular secure premises through the system. As should be understood, the body of collected information may be used in investigative issues and for predictive purposes. Additionally, having digitized images allows the application of image processing which can be used for computerized examination of images for identification of suspicious objects. This may assist the visual inspection of the images by security personnel. It is a collateral use of the inventive system to be a learning/teaching tool enabling human inspectors to identify suspicious objects to the system through the touch screen interface as the system “learns” the characteristics of particular objects and itself alerts the human inspectors to non-acceptable objects.
Other embodiments of the invention will be apparent to those skilled in the art from consideration of the specification and practice of the invention disclosed herein. It is intended that the specification be considered as exemplary only, with the true scope and spirit of the invention being indicated by the following claims.
93. A method for inspecting a series of articles containing discrete objects and selecting for further examination certain objects comprising the steps of:
- conveying said series of articles into and through an inspection zone;
- irradiating each article of said series of articles with incident electromagnetic radiation while said article is in said inspection zone;
- measuring the electromagnetic radiation emanating from each article within said series of articles;
- processing said measured electronic radiation to creating an electronic image of each article, said electronic image including images of any discrete objects within said article;
- selecting one of a plurality of inspectors to inspect the image of an article from said series on an interactive display assigned to that inspector;
- displaying the image of said article on the interactive display screen assigned to the selected inspector;
- repeating said selecting and displaying steps until each of said plurality of inspectors has the image of a different article displayed on the interactive display dedicated to that inspector;
- visually inspecting the image of said article for any objects that would require further examination by the selected inspector on that inspector's interactive display;
- selecting any objects within said article that require further examination by the selected inspector using the inspector's interactive display;
- marking any selected objects within said image of said specific article;
- creating a marked-up image of said specific article if any objects were previously selected for further examination;
- storing said image of said specific article; and
- assigning a new image to said inspector.
94. The method of claim 93 further comprising
- conveying each article with one or more objects selected for further examination to a further examination station;
- displaying said marked-up image of said article on an interactive display screen located within said further examination station to assist an examiner in further examining said article; and
- examining said one or more selected objects within said article.
95. The method of claim 94 further comprising
- indicating whether said article containing one or more objects for further examination included one or more objects from the group consisting of a firearm, a knife, a sharp object, a pointed objects, a spray can, a bomb, an explosive composition, and ammunition via said interactive display screen.
96. The method of claim 93 further comprising:
- selecting a stored image of an article from said series of articles for review by a supervisor;
- displaying said selected stored image of an article from said series of articles on an interactive display;
- reviewing said stored image by said supervisor.
97. The method of claim 93 further comprising
- monitoring the performance of an inspector by projecting one or more computerized images of threat objects into an image of an article from said series of articles for display on said inspector's interactive screen at random times and tracking the inspector's accuracy in selecting said one or more computerized images of threat objects.
98. The method of claim 93 wherein said inspecting and selecting occurs at a location remote from the location where said irradiating occurs.
99. The method of claim 93 further comprising
- associating an individual with each article in said series of articles;
- storing the associated image of each article in a searchable database along with a digital photograph of the individual associated with that article.
100. The method of claim 98 wherein said storing step further includes storing additional information about the individual associated with each article.
101. The method of claim 100 wherein said searchable database is analyzed to compile correlations, association, and histories of objects, and individuals associated with said objects, entering a particular secure premises.
102. The method of claim 93 wherein said interactive display is a touch screen display and the selection of an object for further examination is made by touching the image the object on said touch screen display.
103. The method of claim 93 wherein the interactive display includes a viewing screen and a point-and-click device and the selection of objects for further examination is made by using the point-and-click device.
104. A computer-assisted screening system utilizing a plurality of inspectors for inspecting a series of articles containing discrete objects to select certain objects for further examination comprising:
- a conveyor that conveys each article within said series of articles through an inspection zone;
- an electromagnetic radiation source that irradiates each of said articles;
- a sensor that measures the electromagnetic radiation emanating from each article when said article is irradiated;
- a computer that processes said measurement of said electromagnetic radiation emanating from each article to generate an electronic image of each article revealing any discrete objects within said article and selects which of said one or more inspectors to display each image to;
- an interactive video display for each of said plurality of inspectors on which said image is displayed and on which said inspector selects any discrete objects that require further examination; and
- means for transmitting said images to additional interactive video displays.
105. The system of claim 104 further comprising
- a further examination area;
- an interactive display in said examination area;
- an image of the article undergoing further examination displayed on said interactive display, said image including markings highlighting the one or more discrete objects in said article selected for further review.
106. The system of claim 105 further comprising means for recording the type of each object selected for further examination.
107. The system of claim 104 wherein the interactive video displays for said plurality of inspectors is located in a location from the location in which the electromagnetic radiation source resides.
108. The apparatus of claim 104 wherein said selections are stored in a searchable database along with said electronic images of said articles in said series of articles containing discrete objects.
109. The system of claim 108 wherein said selections along with said electronic images of said articles are stored in a searchable database along with digital photographs of an individual associated with each said article.
110. The system of claim 109 wherein said selections, electronic images, and digital photographs are stored in a searchable database in a computer along with other information associated with each article and each individual.
111. The system of claim 110 further comprising means for analyzing said searchable database to compile at least one of correlations, associations, and histories of articles, objects, and individuals related thereto, entering a particular secure premises.
112. The system of claim 104 wherein the interactive video display is a touch screen display.
113. The system of claim 104 wherein the interactive video display includes a means for displaying an image and a point-and-click device for interacting with said image.
114. The system of claim 104 further comprising
- a supervisor;
- a supervisory workstation including an interactive video display;
- means for randomly selecting an image that has been inspected by an inspector;
- means for displaying said randomly selected image for review by said supervisor; and
- means for recording said inspector's performance.
Filed: Mar 14, 2006
Publication Date: Dec 7, 2006
Patent Grant number: 7244941
Inventors: Charles Roos (Nashville, TN), Edward Sommer (Nashville, TN)
Application Number: 11/375,228
International Classification: G01N 23/04 (20060101);